Sabah politician and senior lawyer Ansari Abdullah has supported the stance of the Sarawak government and various leaders on the right of Christians to use the term ‘Allah’ for God.
“The Bible in Arabic also uses ‘Allah’ and the term has been used in the Bahasa Malaysia version (of the Bible) for a long time.”
Ansari is not the first Muslim leader in Sabah to take such a stand. However, he’s the first senior opposition leader to go public with his views on an issue that refuses to go away after months of polemics.
His statement was compelled by reports that the government may act against the Bar Council for using the term ‘Allah’ in a website poll.
While acknowledging that he is not an expert in religion, Ansari said he agrees with PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (left) who said “it is not wrong for non-Muslims to use the word ‘Allah’ as the reference to God, as we are all Allah’s people”.
Ansari also said Sabahans have no problems with race and religion and described politicians in the peninsula as “jealous” of the level of social integration and racial harmony in the state.
Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca – which are not headed by Malay rulers – are expected to be told to gazette the terms Allah, Baitullah, solat and Kaabah for the exclusive use of Muslims.
It is not known whether Sabah will gazette the terms, but it may take its cue from Sarawak and Penang which have ruled out any such move.
Others opposed to move
Other Sabah leaders like former Tuaran MP Yunof Maringking, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Bernard Giluk Dompok, deputy federal minister VK Liew and PKR vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan are opposed to the terms being gazetted.
“If the state government endorses such gazetting, it would not only be going against the religious conscience of the majority of its citizens, but it would be in violation of Article 8 of the Malaysia Agreement,” said Jeffrey.
“The federal constitution is the supreme law of the land. We must respect and abide by it. The freedom of religion as enshrined in Article 3.1 of the constitution also includes the freedom for Christians to call their God ‘Allah’ in Bahasa Malaysia or Kadazandusun, among other languages.”
Yunof, a lawyer, has said that restriction of use of the term ‘Allah’ is against Articles 10 and 11 of the constitution.
Dompok had complained that anti-Christian media reports on the issue have bordered on “sedition”, while Liew said gazetting should be withheld since the matter is in court.
“There is no urgency to gazette the term ‘Allah’ when the final appellate court has not decided on the matter. Any attempt to do so is not only pre-empt the Federal Court but would also be subjudice and in possible contempt,” said Liew.
“The federal constitution guarantees that no one shall be discriminated on the grounds of religion, race, descent or place of birth. Most importantly, in the matter before us, the constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression.”
Sabah church activists led by Jeffrey have launched a signature campaign to persuade the federal government to rescind the ban on ‘Allah’ being used by Christians in prayer, song, worship and in print.
The campaign will run until March 29, after which a memorandum and the signatures will be submitted to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Putrajaya.